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WC Qualification Europe

  • 15 November 2013
  • • 19:00
  • • Laugardalsvöllur, Reykjavík
  • Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
  • • Attendance: 9768
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Iceland - Croatia Preview: Hosts hoping to make history

Iceland - Croatia Preview: Hosts hoping to make history

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Lars Lagerback will be able to draw on a wealth of international experience when he pits his wits against newcomer Niko Kovac, who will be leading his country for the first time

Iceland continue their bid to become the smallest nation in World Cup history when they welcome Croatia to Reykjavik on Friday.

Lars Lagerback, whose career has seen him manage at three World Cups already, will now be looking to give himself every chance of reaching a fourth with a play-off first-leg victory, having led Iceland to second place in Group E.

Croatia, meanwhile, got off to a flying start in Group A - winning five of their opening six fixtures - but tailed off dramatically in their final four matches and are without a competitive victory since a 2-1 win over Wales in March.

That poor form led to the dismissal of head coach Igor Stimac so former Croatia captain Niko Kovac will begin his interim tenure in charge of the national side in tense circumstances.

Both sides finished their group campaigns on 17 points - a distant second behind Switzerland and Belgium, respectively - and, aside from Denmark, who missed out on the play-offs, and France, who featured in a smaller group, Iceland and Croatia were the lowest-point-scoring runners-up of the group stage.

While Iceland are aiming to qualify for their first tournament, Croatia have missed out just once since their first entry in 1998.

The history books will make unhappy reading for home fans, with the Croats having won the two previous competitive encounters between the sides - scoring seven goals and conceding just one in reply.

Despite his side's lack of major tournament experience, Lagerback is hopeful that Iceland - whose high-profile players include Tottenham's Gylfi Sigurdsson and former Chelsea and Barcelona man Eidur Gudjohnsen - can upset the odds and make history.

"Of course it would be a huge disappointment if we didn't get to Brazil now that we are so close but, as far as I am concerned, we are in a win-win situation," he told the press. "There weren't many outside Iceland and, to be fair, on Iceland who expected us to get this far, even though the expectations have grown the further we have got in qualifying.

"But I hope people are not thinking that [it would be a huge disappointment to miss out]. I am certainly not thinking that way."

Iceland will look to Kolbeinn Sigthorsson to boost their chances of victory, the Ajax man having netted 13 goals in 19 games for his country. Meanwhile, defender Birkir Mar Saevarsson is suspended for the hosts for the first leg.

Croatia left-back Ivan Strinic is unavailable due to injury but the likes of Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic and Niko Kranjcar will be available to Kovac.

Last Five Matches

Head To Head

Iceland

Croatia

Wins
0
1
3
Wins

Betting & Predictions

Reader's Predictions

Iceland ISL
Iceland Iceland
Draw
Croatia HRV
Croatia Croatia
31%
58%

Top 3 Predictions

Iceland ISL
0 - 2
Croatia HRV
Iceland ISL
1 - 2
Croatia HRV
Iceland ISL
1 - 3
Croatia HRV

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